Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Declan Bennett. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Declan Bennett. Sort by date Show all posts

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Striking 12, Union Theatre | Review

Striking 12
Union Theatre 
Reviewed on Monday 3rd December 2018 by Olivia Mitchell 

Now we've entered December, the festive shows on offer are really stepping up, with the Union Theatre's Striking 12 providing a festive but not in-your-face-Christmas 90 minute story to warm hearts and have toes tapping. 

With an eclectic score by Brendan Milburn and Valerie Vigoda's this re-telling of Hans Christian Anderson's The Little Match Girl, switches between a contemporary New Year's Eve and the 1840s New Years Eve where the Anderson tale is set. 

Declan Bennett plays Brendan, a man who dislikes NYE as he's haunted by memories of his ex-fiancé; whilst home alone, he reads the Anderson tale and is reminded of the importance of giving and sharing. Bennett is vocally powerful and gives an admirable performance despite some sound issues, especially towards the start, which made him hard to hear. 

In the 1840s setting, Bronté Barbé plays the Little Match Girl with a sweetness and sincerity that the audience can't help but be drawn to, and in the modern setting, she plays an equally kind and appealing character  as a girl selling seasonal lightbulbs. Barbé's effortless vocal performance is utterly mesmerising to watch and, helped by Alex Lewer's lighting, really evokes the warm feeling we all desire at Christmas. 

The rest of the cast are made up by Andrew Linnie on piano, with Danielle Kassaraté, Kate Robson-Stuart and Leon Scott acting as narrators, secondary characters and musicians in a series of seamless turns and twists. The trio do an outstanding and humourous job of moving the story forward and work extremely well together in the small space of the Union.

Whilst the cast are very strong and the story is sweet, there are a few faults with this production, mainly that the overarching story, doesn't have much oomph as it lacks emotional depth. Our leading man spends the entirety of the show reading about the struggles of the Little Match Girl so that he eventually becomes a 'new man'. However, he wasn't bad to start with, at least, from what we see. Other than turning away the young girl selling light bulbs, there isn't a scrooge-like aspect to him so his transition doesn't feel overly effective. There's also a number of mentions of his ex-fiancé which aren't explored, so again,  have little impact.  

However, even with these issues, the story is super sweet and with a couple of tweaks could be a real hit. To combat those winter blues, and get a fuzzy feeling inside, be sure to take a trip to the Union Theatre and spend 90 minutes with Striking 12.

Striking 12 runs at the Union Theatre until 23rd December 2018

photo credit: Tom Grace

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

The View Upstairs, Soho Theatre | Review

The View Upstairs 
Soho Theatre
Reviewed on Tuesday 23rd July by Olivia Mitchell 

Whilst victories in the LGBTQ+ community are rising, and social attitudes and actions are, for the most part, much more positive, there's still much to fight for, as Max Vernon's musical highlights.

In its European premiere at the Soho Theatre, The View Upstairs cleverly creates a conversation between the past and present by visiting the UpStairs Lounge, a New Orleans gay bar which was the subject of an arson attack in 1973 which killed 32 people. The tragic story is one which has often been wiped out from history and was even minimised by news outlets at the time, so it's an honour to see it brought to life so thoughtfully. 

The story follows Wes, the 2019 "influencer" and fashion designer who is buying the dilapidated bar in the modern day. His estate agent leaves, and in a somewhat mystical, drug-filled flurry of curtains, he is transported back to the bar as it was on the day of the fire. Who we are then introduced to are the various people, decked out in bell bottoms, who find solace and friendship in the safe space the UpStairs provides. Wes' eyes are gradually opened to he struggles of being gay in the 70s and he questions how he leads his life in the modern day. 

Wes is a smartphone-addicted go-getter who often veers into a caricature of a Gen Y person, but is  still intensely entertaining and relatable. As a whole the book features a lot of stereotypes which are not always believable enough, but there are hilarious one-liners throughout, as well as many thought-provoking moments. 

What the script lacks is made up for in spades by the utterly phenomenal cast. Tyrone Huntley is effervescent in his performance and provides vocals which need to be heard; Huntley also manages to create a fantastic balance between impudence and vulnerability, which really makes the audience root for him. The chemistry between the entire cast is second to none, with Wes and Patrick (Andy Mientus) providing especially well thought out interactions. Mientus draws the eye thanks to his incredibly subtle but highly calculated movements which make him seem as though he isn't acting at all.

The uniformly thrilling cast bring vocals that will cause involuntary whoops and goosebumps in equal measure. Among a team of stars, Carly Mercedes Dyer and Cedric Neal stand out because of their powerhouse voices which ring out with sincerity as well as power. Victoria Hamilton-Barritt is magnetic as the caring, religious mother Inez; whilst Garry Lee provides vocals and sass and her drag queen son Freddy. John Partridge and Declan Bennett are well rounded and striking in their performances and Joseph Prouse and Derek Hagen give memorable, if brief performances. This is a fantastic ensemble piece which has momentum and catchy tunes, but more importantly, heart.

Fabian Aloise and Ruthie Stevens's choreography is slick and feels part of the characters own movements. Lee Newby's set is basic but evocative as is Nic Farman's lighting which expertly matches the moods of the show, although at times felt just a bit too dark.

Jonathan O'Boyle has directed a moving production which feels like an homage to those fighting for gay rights in the past, those fighting now and those who are yet to realise they need to fight. 

photo credit: Darren Bell